Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/23/2003 10:00 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                                                                                                                                
     SENATE BILL NO. 147                                                                                                        
     "An Act relating to control of nuisance wild animals; and                                                                  
     providing for an effective date."                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
This  was the first  hearing  for this  bill in  the Senate  Finance                                                            
Committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Wilken explained  this bill sponsored  by Co-Chair  Green,                                                            
"allows the  Alaska Board  of Game to issue  permits or licenses  to                                                            
control nuisance wild birds or small animals."                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Green informed  that  residents sometimes  incur  nuisance                                                            
"critters" on  their property and are unable or unwilling  to remove                                                            
the animals themselves  without assistance. She stated  that current                                                            
statute  does not  allow another  party,  other than  certain  State                                                            
employees, to  provide such assistance without obtaining  a separate                                                            
permit for each incidence.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Green  remarked  that  this  legislation  would  create  a                                                            
professional  license  for  parties  interested  in  providing  this                                                            
assistance  as a service.  She noted  the license  holders would  be                                                            
apprised of pertinent laws  and regulations and would be required to                                                            
uphold those rules.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Green  opined this license would provide  a "reasonable way                                                            
for people  to control  nuisance critters  and animals around  their                                                            
property."                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Senator Taylor referenced  language in Section 2 on page 3 lines 3 -                                                            
5, which read as follows.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     …The commissioner also may issue without cost a permit for the                                                             
     noncommercial control of nuisance wild birds or nuisance wild                                                              
     small mammals…                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Taylor indicated  "small" is also  contained in  conforming                                                            
language on page  3, line 21. He suggested deletion  of "small" from                                                            
the bill, unless  it is a "technical definition of  a classification                                                            
of animals".  He  surmised  that giving  "a broader  perspective  or                                                            
opportunity"  for professionals  to assist  residents with  nuisance                                                            
animals would be preferred.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Green  deferred to  the  Department of  Fish  and Game  to                                                            
explain the definition of small mammals.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Senator   Bunde  pointed   out  that  current   State  statute   and                                                            
regulations  refer to  small and large  game animals,  and that  the                                                            
language  in this  legislation  could be  a reflection  of  existing                                                            
definitions.  He stated that currently  Department of Fish  and Game                                                            
or other law enforcement  officials handle incidences  of aggressive                                                            
moose.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MATT  ROBUS, Acting  Director,  Division of  Wildlife Conversation,                                                             
Department  of Fish  and Game stated  the clarification  of  "small"                                                            
mammals  is to  limit  the scope  of the  commercial  operators  and                                                            
individual permitees'  activities. He exampled a moose  entangled in                                                            
a  fence and  the  necessity  that professional  biologists  or  law                                                            
enforcement   personnel  with   past  experience   respond   to  the                                                            
situation.  He added that these situations  "usually involve  into a                                                            
public  safety  issue"   in  which  the  Department  currently   has                                                            
statutory jurisdiction.  He noted this legislation would allow other                                                            
nuisance  animals  to be  addressed,  such  as river  otter  raiding                                                            
domestic poultry.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Robus   recommended   retaining  the   language  limiting   the                                                            
provisions of this bill to small mammals and wild birds.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Senator   Taylor  was  unsure   why  this   program  would   not  be                                                            
administered  in the same fashion  without the restriction  to small                                                            
animals. He suggested  contracts could be entered  into with private                                                            
individuals to address  situations with large animals and that it is                                                            
not necessary  that action should be limited to State  employees. He                                                            
spoke of road  kill of moose and the distribution  of meat harvested                                                            
from these incidences.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Robus  noted that  incidences  with larger  animals cause  pubic                                                            
safety  issues  and  informed  that  the  Department  currently  has                                                            
authority  and  enters  into  contracts  with  private  citizens  to                                                            
address  these situations.  He specified that  the Department  lacks                                                            
authority  to issue permits  to address  incidences involving  birds                                                            
and  smaller mammals.  He  did not  oppose  inclusion  of small  and                                                            
"medium" size animals.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Senator Taylor  reiterated  the provision should  be broad  to allow                                                            
for unexpected circumstances.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Robus then  testified in favor  of the legislation, as  it would                                                            
provide  the  ability  to  address  situations  that  could  not  be                                                            
addressed  in the  past.  He told  of issues  with  migratory  birds                                                            
whereby  the  federal  government  has  requested   assistance  with                                                            
addressing nuisance  birds, although the Department  has been unable                                                            
to issue permits to private parties.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Robus informed that  the bill contains two "pathways", one being                                                            
a commercial  license  that would  allow  a private  party to  offer                                                            
nuisance  animal control services  to the public.  He noted  the fee                                                            
for this license  would be $100 and that interest  in providing this                                                            
service has  been expressed. He predicted  the program would  have a                                                            
"slow start"  and therefore  incur minimal  Department expense.  The                                                            
second  pathway, he  stated,  would allow  the Department  to  issue                                                            
permits  to private  individuals to  deal with  individual  nuisance                                                            
animal situations.  He noted  this process  would be similar  to the                                                            
Department's  issuance   of public  safety   permit  and  scientific                                                            
educational permits.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Robus stated  the Department would  apply the same case-by-case                                                             
guidelines  used  to  determine  "defense   of  life  and  property"                                                            
justifications  in  that  non-lethal  options  would  be  considered                                                            
before a permit would be issued to kill an animal.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Robus expressed  concern with transitioning this  legislation to                                                            
include  all animals  emphasizing  that  although all  wildlife  has                                                            
value,  larger game  animals  also provide  meat and  have a  trophy                                                            
value. Although  bears, etc,  could be a  nuisance, he assured  that                                                            
other options  are available for dealing with large  problem animals                                                            
safely  and effectively.  He  was reluctant  to place  a  commercial                                                            
operator  in  the  position  of  making  safety  determinations.  He                                                            
appreciated   Senator  Taylor's  efforts   to  provide  flexibility                                                             
although  the  Department's  intent  is to  address  small  nuisance                                                            
animals.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
ROBERT DORAN  testified via teleconference  from Mat-Su that  he has                                                            
found  that agencies  do  not have  adequate  time or  personnel  to                                                            
address  problems  with  small nuisance  animals  and  the  affected                                                            
public is unable  to take action for various reasons.  He assured he                                                            
did not  intent  to "step  into the  role of biologist"  but  rather                                                            
offer a service to the public to address nuisance animals.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Senator Bunde, referencing  Senator Taylor's earlier comments, asked                                                            
if the intent of this legislation  is to cover large killed animals,                                                            
as he  understood a  program already  exists to  remove and  harvest                                                            
meat from animals struck and killed by vehicles.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Green  asserted  her  intent  is to  address  only  living                                                            
nuisance animals.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Robus affirmed a system exists to address killed animals.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Senator Taylor  spoke of injured large animals and  the inability to                                                            
end suffering  until "someone  with a badge"  arrives. He  suggested                                                            
private  contractors could  be available  to address  the matter  of                                                            
large injured animals.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Wilken  indicated Mr. Robus could respond  to this query at                                                            
a future hearing on this bill.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Senator Olson requested an opportunity to offer Amendment #1.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Wilken stated the amendment would be addressed later.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Wilken ordered the bill HELD in Committee.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                

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